It’s pretty crazy how one good documentary can completely change your outlook on life. Sure, they’re just movies, but there’s something uniquely amazing about sitting down, relaxing and having your mind blown in two hours. Health documentaries, in particular, tend to be the most thought-provoking. They look at the things we eat, the activities we partake in, the things we buy, the industries we support, the way we treat our bodies and show us how it really works — behind the scenes. The truth can be scary (for example, learning about what goes into that burger you ate last night), but in the end, it’s best to be well-informed, happy, and healthy.
That’s why we highly recommend these documentaries (all of which, BTW, you can stream on Netflix or Hulu) that cover everything from the meat industry, to big pharma, and marathon running. Prepare for your mind to be blown and your lifestyle to change.
16. Cowspiracy (Netflix)
Cowspiracy is probably one of the most thought-provoking health documentaries out there right now. Sure, there are plenty of movies out there about why eating meat is bad. If you’re a die-hard carnivore, the arguments from animal rights activists may not be enough to change your mind. That’s what’s different about Cowspiracy; it looks at the environmental effects of animal agriculture. Whether it’s beef or salmon, the consumption of animals could be the leading cause of global warming, water crises, and deforestation. Furthermore, the creators look at why the government and environmental industry are keeping us in the dark.
15. Cooked (Netflix)
This Netflix docu-series combines some of the coolest aspects of health documentaries and rolls them into one. Based on the book by the same title, Cooked follows author Michael Pollan as he learns about the different histories, cultures, science, and production surrounding the food we eat. He talks about some of the issues with the processed food industry and how it can negatively affect both our health and the environment. Pollan is a huge advocate of careful, thoughtful food preparation. Cooked will inspire you to think about what goes into your food, and how to cook and eat holistically.
14. Chow Down (Hulu)
In the United States today, it’s no secret that heart disease is one of the most prevalent health issues we face. In Chow Down, we follow Charles, John, and Garnet as they come to terms with their severe heart illness – and opt for a significant diet change instead of expensive surgeries and medication. This film explores how the government, the pharmaceutical industry, and the food industry are working against our health. Could a sick heart improve with just drastic lifestyle changes? The three protagonists of this documentary sure hope so.
13. Never Ending Orgasm (Hulu)
If you couldn’t tell by the title, Never Ending Orgasm is a short documentary about something that’s still relatively unexplored: the female orgasm. As far as health documentaries go, it’s pretty unprecedented. There’s already very little known about the science behind the female orgasm, but this documentary takes it one step further. They look at super-orgasmic women: women who can experience up to hundreds of orgasms at once — lasting for hours. These women head to a lab run by the best sex scientists to find out what exactly goes on neurologically while these orgasms are happening. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to know more about experiencing orgasms? Considering some studies have shown orgasms can lead to better health overall and perhaps an even longer life, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be collecting information on how to make the most of sex.
12. Born Strong
Born Strong isn’t like most health documentaries. Documentaries about fitness are usually about how pushing your body’s limits is a healthy, beneficial, and inspiring thing to do. But Born Strong almost does the complete opposite. It unpacks the fitness obsessions, mental health issues, and disordered eating that goes into being a strongman. We’re given a detailed look into how our society’s obsession with strength can shorten life-spans, ruin relationships, destroy bodies, and contribute to toxic masculinity.
11. Forks Over Knives (Netflix)
If you’ve been thinking about changing your diet and eating healthy, then you should probably add Forks Over Knives to your Netflix queue. While it’s not a documentary that’s in full support of veganism, it does a convincing job showing the benefits of a plant-based diet. In particular, the film shows the endless benefits of a low-fat, whole-food, plant-majority diet. Essentially, less processed food and more greens can have benefits to your health that are almost unbelievable. Forks Over Knives provides hard scientific and medical facts that will leave you completely convinced.
10. Off Label (Hulu)
This documentary is pretty one-sided, TBH, but it’s still undeniably interesting and thought-provoking, especially if you’re interested in health, science, and medication. What’s great about this movie is that it gives individualized accounts from eight highly unique people across America. Each of them is struggling with mental illness in some way. The documentary looks at the issues of the high (and sometimes unnecessary) amounts of prescription drugs given to patients. Off Label shows how these drugs are often prescribed carelessly in ways that lead to dangerous combinations, abuse, addiction, and sometimes — death.
9. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (Hulu)
This is another one of those health documentaries that explores the dangers with fitness obsessions. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* looks at two brothers obsessed with bodybuilding, and achieving the perfect physique. Primarily, it looks at why some athletes are willing to risk their health and reputation through the use of anabolic steroids and other drastic (but sometimes legal) performance-enhancing drugs. This film is so interesting because it relates the whole issue to American society at large. Why do people feel so compelled to achieve such unrealistic perfection?
8. Rotten (Netflix)
If you’re interested in food production, the food industry, or crime documentaries, you should most definitely check out Rotten. This docu-series takes a hard look at the hidden workings of the food production industry. There’s a whole lot that goes into the food we eat every day that most people will never know about. Each episode looks at a different subset of the food industry and the dangers, waste, corruption, and evils behind how it works. Even if you’re not super into health documentaries, this series feels almost like a crime drama.
7. Hungry for Change (Netflix)
If you’re particularly health-conscious, we highly recommend you check out Hungry for Change. A lot of health documentaries promote dieting and healthy eating, but this one goes a step farther. It analyzes and exposes the tricks and deception of the diet industry, who prey on people desperate to change their bodies. The weight loss and food industry have hidden tricks to stop you from your success and keep you coming back to them for help. This film will show you how to start an honest, truly beneficial health journey.
6. 1 A Minute (Hulu)
If you’re interested in medically-based health documentaries, 1 A Minute is an absolute must-see. We all hear about cancer all the time, and most of us have been affected by it personally one way or another. 1 A Minute makes the disease about more than just statistics and follows the personal journey of a cancer survivor. You’ll also hear stories from famous celebrities whose lives have been touched by this horrific disease. It covers everything, starting with diagnosis, to show how cancer affects real-life people.
5. Food, Inc. (Netflix)
Food, Inc. is most certainly one of the most groundbreaking health documentaries of its kind. Created in 2008, this documentary gives an in-depth insight into the evils of agribusiness. You’ll see how everything from meat production to even that of vegetables is laden with dangerous practices and corruption. It not only talks about the environmental damage of mass food production, but how these practices abuse animals and employees and how the government is majorly complacent in these harmful practices. Basically, you’ll never feel the same walking into a supermarket.
4. Addiction Incorporated (Hulu)
Okay, we all know that cigarettes are bad for us. Addiction Incorporated is about way more than that. In 1980, one man named Victor DeNoble worked for a major tobacco company as a researcher. As the company looked to find alternatives to nicotine that would reduce the risk of heart attack, Victor found out a lot more in the process. He exposed the addictive ingredients and add-ins that cigarette corporations tried to keep quiet, and ultimately spawned the first-ever federal regulation of the tobacco industry.
3. In Defense of Food (Netflix)
This another one of Michael Pollan’s health documentaries, and it’s completely based his one, simple mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants. Essentially, Pollan uses In Defense of Food to try and address and unpack the infinite fads, myths, and misconceptions about the way we eat. He travels the world, looking at international diets to try and debunk the industrial, Western ideas about food and food production. Our obsession with diet and nutrition, he argues, has seriously hurt us. He proves the benefits of keeping it simple, local, and holistic.
2. Free to Run (Hulu)
If you’re a dedicated runner, or even if you’re just mildly interested in it as a sport, then Free to Run will definitely interest you. This documentary looks at how road running worked its way into mainstream culture. Being a “runner” was not a popular idea until fairly recently as the sports industry become more accessible and mainstreamed. One really interesting aspect of Free to Run is how it talks about women runners, and how they were completely excluded from professional/competitive races for so long.
1. Happy (Netflix)
As the title suggests, Happy is probably one of the most wholesome health documentaries out there. It tries to answers one of the most impossible questions of all time: how can I be happy? Mental illness (and depression in particular) are pretty much inescapable in modern society, so how do some people avoid it and find fulfillment? Happy goes all over the world, interviewing people of all different professions, backgrounds, lifestyles, and cultures, to see what makes them truly happy. Who wouldn’t want to learn a little bit more about positive psychology?